The financial services industry in the US has traditionally been a sector overwhelmingly dominated by white men (picture the trading scenes in such movies as "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Boiler Room"). But a growing number of organizations are forming across the US to encourage women and people of color to consider a career in the financial services industry. ZDNet found three non-profits that are making inroads towards diversifying the finance industry.
Let's start with the good news. Gender-based diversity among entry-level positions in the financial services industry is leveling out. Women, in banking services for example, comprised 52% of the those positions according to a 2021 report authored by McKinsey and Leanin.org.
Such gains are also translating to upper management -- somewhat. In the past three years, the number of women at the senior vice president level grew by 40%. The number of C-suite positions occupied by women increased by 50%. While that sounds impressive, the overall numbers show progress is still needed. Only 23% of management positions are held by white women, 9% by men of color, and 4% by women of color.
Overcoming a lack of diversity
Bevon Joseph began his Information Technology career on trading floors in New York City and Chicago fixing equipment. He received a crash course in investing from his proximity to traders and the relationships he developed. However, during a career that spanned 20 years in the financial services sector, including a position as CTO of a hedge fund, he noticed a glaring lack of diversity in his industry.
Joseph, founder and CEO, began the Greenwood Project in 2016 to expose more black and Latinx youth to careers in the finance and fintech industry. The nonprofit is named after the industrious Tulsa, Oklahoma community built by the children of enslaved people that thrived until the infamous 1921 massacre. They recruit high school juniors, seniors, and college students to participate in a paid summer positions. The high school program, currently operating only in Chicago, is a six-week paid summer job where students learn to code and analyze stocks with investment bankers from companies such as Goldman Sachs. "Kids are getting an early exposure to as many careers in fintech so they can make an informed decision when they go to college. Too many kids are not giving fintech or finance a look," Joseph told ZDNet. He's a firm believer that youth can't be what they cannot see.
Greenwood College Scholars are recruited nationally. This year, 75 students are attending a four-week training program housed at DePaul University. From there, they will complete a six-week paid internship at financial service firms in Chicago, New York City, Denver, or Las Angeles. Next year, lucky interns will have a chance to travel to London. Currently the Greenwood Project works with 50 corporate partners including Citadel Securities. "The Greenwood Project's high school program reaches students at a pivotal point in their academic journey, when skills-based training and exposure to new opportunities can open pathways to success," said Gerald Beeson, COO of Citadel in a press release.
The project has a 90% retention rate from high school through college and 100% of the graduates are working full-time in the financial service sector. Fifty percent of their recruits are women. Brandy Wayne was part of the initial cohort for the high school program in the summer of 2019. "When I joined the program, I had no intentions [on working] in finance," she told ZDNet. "None of the opportunities I have now would have been possible with out Greenwood," she added. Wayne recently graduated from Bradley University and has accepted a position with Citigroup as an analyst.
Increasing resumes in the pipeline
Girls Who Invest (GWI) founder, Seema Hingorani, initially wanted to be a lawyer. Before attending law school, she took a trajectory changing job on Wall Street and found her passion in asset management. After rising through the ranks to CIO of Citi in New York, she began to realize how underrepresented women were across all asset classes. "I would sit down with mostly men and ask where are the women on your investment teams," she shared on the website. It seems women were not applying for positions in great numbers. Hingorani suspected there may have been more to the problem. She started GWI to address the challenges.
Established in 2015, GWI partners with over 100 firms to spread the word and convince women that careers in finance can be stimulating, rewarding, and impactful. Their ambitious goal is to recruit women in positions managing 30% of the world's investible capital by 2030. "Gender diversity matters and it makes business sense. With more gender diversity, you get better outcomes," Hingorani added.
To achieve that goal, GWI offers a 10-week paid internship for college sophomores. Like the Greenwood Project, the GWI Summer Intensive Program offers four weeks of educational training with a six-week internship. Participants are introduced to core finance and investment principles allowing them to explore careers in the field of finance. Meagan Loyst, a Finance and Information Systems major at Boston College, had an opportunity to evaluate the pros and cons of working in the hedge fund industry first-hand because of her experience with GWI. "It broadened my perspectives on the opportunities that are available in finance, especially as an undergrad coming right out of school," Loyst shared.
To date, GWI has worked with more than 800 women from 193 universities and colleges. Eighty percent of their participants remain in the finance industry.
Building a bridge to Wall Street
Troy Prince had a similar experience. Raised in the Bronx, he landed on Wall Street and grew tired of being one of the only people of color on the trading floor. After a 25-year career in the finance industry, he started Wall Street Bound in 2019 to empower young people and impact the lack of diversity he encountered. "Wall Street Bound was founded on the idea that talent and IQ are universally distributed, opportunity is not," Prince said.
Wall Street Bound is expressly focused on recruiting, training, mentoring and preparing diverse populations for a career in financial services. They approach this by providing three programs for college students:
- Introduction to Wall Street Bootcamp -- A 25-hour capital markets and career introduction course
- Wall Street Direct -- 10-week technical and soft skills training program
- Diverse Trader Training Program -- One-year training program allowing participants to manage a live capital account of $250,000
Participants who successfully complete either program can apply for an educational stipend of $2,500.
With the help of their corporate and academic partners, Wall Street Bound has a goal to impact the lives 10,000 young people by 2030. Their intent is to build a pipeline from economically and racially diverse communities to the financial services industry and investment culture. To date, Wall Street Bound has served 300 students and expects to double that reach in 2022. "We receive applications from every corner of globe. The hunger is incredible. We know that this message resonates globally," Prince added.